Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Gold!

The Bronze Age inhabitants of Ireland loved their gold! Many artifacts such as these have been found in burial sites and in other caches throughout Ireland.
Everything you see in the above two photos was found at the same super treasure trove site in Co. Clare. And this is only part of the hoard! All of these fine pieces were made in the Late Bronze Age.
As these early goldsmiths improved their skills, their pieces became more and more refined like this beautiful necklace of twisted gold.
This lovely brooch, known as the Brooch of Tara, is thought to have belonged to one of the kings of Tara. There are interlaced animal and geometric designs fashioned of gold filigree on the front as well as inlaid pieces of glass and amber. It is made of both silver and gold.
Of all the stunning gold jewelry on display, these simple, hollow gold balls were my favorites. Each ball is a little smaller than a tennis ball and is pierced so as to be worn on a piece of rope or leather as a necklace. You can see there are a few missing, and no, I didn't bring them home with me! I think anyone wearing this dramatic necklace would have commanded a lot of attention and respect.

This gold jewelry is definitely the show-stopper at the museum, but it's not why I was so eager to visit. I'll share that reason with you in my next blog post.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Artifacts of Prehistory

Mesolithic knives and scrapers found in Ireland
I'm fascinated by the artifacts of prehistory. Bob and I spent hours in the Yellowstone backcountry searching for arrowheads, scrapers, and flakes that gave evidence of the presence of prehistoric Native Americans in the areas we patrolled. Seeing those same kinds of stone artifacts in the National Museum of Ireland Archaeology was equally intriguing. Thousands of miles separated these early peoples, yet both fashioned tools and weapons in the same way.
Decorated flint mace head, Co Meath
This beautifully decorated flint mace head found in Co Meath may have served a ritual purpose.
Bronze Age spear points

Bronze Age food vessel found in burial tomb

Sometime during the Bronze Age early Irish people began to cremate their dead and put the ashes in pottery containers that were placed in stone burial tombs. These lidded vessels were filled with food or ashes.
Model of burial tomb
Dolmens that we see today in France may be what has survived of tombs like this model of a prehistoric Irish megaltihic tombs

As fascinating as these artifacts are, the real show-stoppers are to come in a later post. Here's a taste to tempt you back...


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Museum of Archaeology

National Museum of Ireland Archaeology
The National Museum of Ireland Archaeology was number 2 of my 'must see in Dublin' list. This imposing building in the Victorian Palladian style was built in 1890 and is part of a complex that also houses the National Library of Ireland. It's a gorgeous building, worth a visit even if you aren't interested in all the fascinating goodies inside.
The colonnaded entrance leads to a rotunda topped by a large dome...all with neo-classical influences.
The inlaid mosaic floors are designed with both Roman and classical Greek motifs. All the marble in  the building comes from Irish counties including County Galway.
My next post will showcase some of the intriguing artifacts this lovely museum houses.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Monpezet-de-Quercy

La Collegiate Saint-Martin
There will be more stories from this month's trip to Ireland, but first a tiny diversion to yesterday's adventure with friends, Maggie and Bill. They always find such interesting places to visit! Yesterday we were in Monpezet-de-Quercy, a small town about an hour's drive from my house. The town looks charming, but our goal was this 14th century church that houses some stunning 16th century tapestries.

The newly-restored tapestries are hung around the walls of the chancel. There are five panels each measuring about 6 x 16 feet; in total spanning 78 feet of wall space. They depict the life of St. Martin of Tours, an important French saint. It's unknown exactly who wove the panels or where they were produced, but it's thought they are Flemish.
They are absolutely stunning!

We rounded out our morning with a stop at Domaine du Gabachou to pick up some boxed wine and then enjoyed a scrumptious lunch at Le-Gabachou, a restaurant just up the road from the winery. It was a lovely way to spend a perfect fall day.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Dun Aengus

Yes, that's Kilmurvy House in the distance, my guesthouse during this month's writing retreat on Inis Mor. And this is the path that leads up the hill to
this: Dun Aengus (Dun Aonghasa in Irish), an 1100 B.C. ring fort.
Not a long hike, but all uphill over pretty rocky terrain for the last bit to the top. I'm glad my friend, Anne, loaned me her walking sticks for the downhill 'slide!'
The view from the top is spectacular!
And yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. There are NO guardrails!
The tradition is to lie on your belly and hang your head over the edge to look straight down.
Nope, not me, man!


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Checking in from Home...

Kilmurvy House
Inis Mor
Checking in from home in Cadrieu. I arrived here at 6 PM last evening after a 2 hr. uneventful flight from Dublin. Wish I had some exciting travel horror stories to share, but this trip was smooth as silk. The only slight glitch was the hurricane that swept over Ireland on Monday. Even that meant just spending the day inside at my hotel...not a problem at all.

I'm missing my time in Ireland as well as the new friends I made there during our writing retreat, Writing on the Wild Edges of the World.  Our week's stay here at Kilmurvy House on Inis Mor was a delight....
as were walks along the shoreline
and treks past fields dotted with contented cows and wonderful dry stone walls.
Dun Aengus
It's hard to complain when you have a prehistoric hill fort just a short hike out the backdoor as well. Dun Aengus' story, though, is for another day....

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Reefert Church

Looking thru the door into Reefert Church
I've visited a ton of monastic ruins on my two visits to Ireland. They're all special, but this tiny church tucked away near the Upper Lake at Glendalough is the ruin that has most touched my heart. Reefert Church was probably built in either the 10th or 11th century on the site of an earlier wood or wattle and daub church. It's the oldest church in this area.
The church was known in the region as The Princes's Church as according to tradition, it is the burial site of seven kings of the O'Toole family. The O'Tooles held power in this area from the 12th to the 16th century. There are many grave markers all around the church.
View from the small window over the altar area.
Reefert Church is considered to be the likely site of St. Kevin's tomb. His hermitage is nearby...a beehive cell for meditation and along the Upper Lake, a cave in which he spent time in solitude. As the founding hermit of this beautiful place, he obviously needed time away from the many monks who followed him here to learn from him and share his ascetic life.

This side of the valley never saw the sun during the Irish winter. It must have been a joy to Kevin to be here in the spring and pray looking out the altar window when the sun finally shone and the trees turned leafy green.





Thursday, October 5, 2017

Checking In from Galway

The River Corrib
I arrived in Galway City last evening around 9PM....in a driving horizontal rain! Luckily, the weather is much better this morning. No swans drifting on a lazy River Corrib today, though.  The river is in full spate, looking very anxious to make its way into Galway Bay.

Galway 'love 'locks'
Ireland has a lovely tradition of tying ribbons or strips of rags to trees, each offering representing a prayer. While I'm not crazy about stuff tied to bridge railings, these Galway love ribbons beat Paris' love locks anytime. And eventually they will weather away leaving space for more lovers to offer prayers of enduring commitment.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Expectancy

When I visited Inis Mor in 2014 with my pilgrimage group, I promised myself I'd return to spend more time on this wind-swept rocky island that sits on the wild edge of Ireland. The island surprised me and I fell in love with it. Very out of character for me to love something barren, rocky and almost entirely without trees! I love green, trees, flowers, swift flowing rivers. But something about the 'thinness' of the place, the restless sea pounding its shores, and the almost visceral feel of ancient lives treading the rocky paths drew me in. Next week I leave for a 6-day writing retreat on this biggest of the Aran Islands. This trip has been almost 2 years in the planning, and I'm preparing with for it with a real sense of expectancy that the restless sea and the ancient stones will become my Muse and whisper just the right words in my ears.